Prior to the last decade, almost all young artists in Iowa had to choose between making a living as an artist and staying in Iowa. Most left. Artists who stayed usually needed day jobs to make ends meet. That changed during the last ten years. Sticks, the artistic furniture company created by Des Moines artist Sarah Grant, became a magnet for artists, reversing the “creativity drain” that obsessed focus groups from coast to coast. Alex Brown maintained his residence and studio in Des Moines even after making it in old New York.
A group of young artists with eastside backgrounds, signed with fledgling Moberg Gallery and soon discovered they could make a living as artists without leaving town, even for representation. Before the end of the decade, artists were moving to Des Moines and not just to work at Sticks. One of them, Zach Mannheimer, established the Des Moines Social Club, a serious theatrical company that also provided a place for all kinds of artists to hang their berets.
Other Top Stories: The Temple of the Performing Arts is saved from civic rubble lust; The Faulconer Gallery opens with generous endowment; The Pappajohn Sculpture Garden shows off a magnificent gift to the city.
Person of the Decade - TJ Moberg
Jackie Moberg says that one day in 2003 she came from work and her husband, sculptor TJ Moberg, told her to quit her job because he had purchased an art gallery. The Mobergs spent the next six years getting people to take local artists seriously. They began with all Iowans and mostly young artists. By decade’s end, they had expanded to Beverly Hills and their stable included known artists from coast to coast. Meanwhile, TJ’s career as a sculptor took a serious turn. His work moved from realistic representations of client’s visions, to unpredictable personal abstractions, as he became the most interesting public artist in the state.
Gallery Exhibitions of the Decade - “Jules Kirschenbaum: A Matchless Clarity” at Anderson and Olson-Larsen, 2000
Two sports arenas demonstrated a decade of great contrasts. Rob Whitehead’s (HLKB) McLeod Center retained traditional Iowa values, with a democratic aesthetics that included a single seating area, intimacy and great sight lines. Wells Fargo Arena (by ironically named Populous) shucked all that for the trappings of apartheid - valet stations, segregated seating areas, elitist entrances and tiers, etc.
Des Moines' Alex Brown left the city behind professionally. He's represented by one of the world's top galleries - Feature, Inc. in New York City. But the painter still keeps a studio in Des Moines and even opens it up during open houses there.